Finally, a Poll Gets the Contraception Question Right

As I’ve been discussing over the past couple of days, polls are all over the place in attempting to assess public opinion on the contraception coverage requirement under the Affordable Care Act, because the questions are framed in such disparate ways. But today Public Religion Research Institute is out with a new poll that shows widespread support for the policy, based on the most lucid and accurate question on the matter.

PRRI asked the question this way: should employers “be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception or birth control at no cost?”

PRRI broke down the question for different types of employers, a methodology that gets to the heart of the various ways the opponents of birth control coverage have framed their objections. Support rises the more attenuated the relationship is with a church or house of worship: churches and other houses of worship (42%) ; religiously affiliated social service agencies (52%); privately owned small businesses (53%); religiously affiliated colleges (54%); religiously affiliated hospitals (57%); and publicly held corporations (62%). 

According to PRRI’s data, “Catholics overall are generally more supportive than the general public of the contraception coverage requirements.” The flock isn’t following the Bishops, who yesterday pledged to continue their opposition to the policy and to what they claim are other threats to the religious liberty. The Bishops, though, have non-Catholic supporters: “White evangelical Protestants are the only religious group that opposes requiring any type of employer to provide their employees with no cost contraception coverage:”

Insurance Mandate e1331743980662 Survey | Majority of Americans Do Not Believe Religious Liberty is Under Attack

At the heart of the evangelical opposition, I think, is their belief that the separation of church and state means the government shouldn’t interfere with the affairs of the church, rather than the government should avoid endorsing or imposing a particular religious view. There’s evidence the Bishops believe this as well, but that hasn’t translated into a a cultural movement among Catholics that promotes this idea. (The survey also asked if separation of church and state is being threatened in America. Forty five percent of respondents said yes, while 48% said no.)

Also, according to the poll, a majority of Americans do not believe that religious liberty is threatened in America. Still, though, 39% do believe this to be true, although only 6% of those identified the contraception mandate as the way that liberty is being threatened. That obviously doesn’t capture the full measure of opposition to the requirement, but it does shed light on how little the right-wing talking point about it has failed to rise to the hysteria some politicians obviously hoped it would.